"Why, oh why, am I so hairy?"
If only I had known at the time that hairiness in women, or hirsutism in medical terms, really isn't that rare at all. In fact, most women have hair in places that would generally be considered "inappropriate" according to standards set by television and media.
To separate reality from the unrealistic standards of modern society, we need to look at where it is, in fact, normal for women to have body hair. Arms, legs, the bikini line, and underarms are a given. However, did you know that above the lip, on the chin, on the hands, fingers, feet and toes, below the bellybutton, and around the nipples is also normal in small amounts?
The truth is that hairiness in women should only become a concern when:
a) the amount of hair is obviously abnormal,
b) hair growth suddenly increases without obvious reason, or
c) the quantity of hair is detrimental to the emotional well-being of a person
Excessive hair or sudden hair growth may both be the result of an underlying condition which must be treated. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is one of the most common, and includes further side-effects such as acne, weight gain, and irregular periods. Certain medications such as hormones or steroids may also result in irregular hair growth. If you are concerned about the quantity of hair present on your body, it never hurts to pay a visit to your local doctor to make sure nothing is amiss.
Finally, as mentioned in point c), if the hair on your body is causing you emotional stress or depression, it may be time to take action. All permanent solutions, specifically laser hair removal and electrolysis, are expensive, so you have to consider whether your depression is serious enough to warrant an expense of upwards of $2000. You may also consider medical treatments such as Vaniqa, which inhibits the hair growth enzyme, or oral pharmacological agents which include but aren't limited to oral contraceptives, cyproterone acetate, and more. (To see a full list, visit the Monash University pamphlet on hirsutism.)
In my case, laser hair removal on my legs changed how I look at myself. No more jeans on the beach in hot weather while everyone else jumps into the water. No more fear of short-shorts and skirts. Just pure confidence in myself and my body.